Aging – getting older – is hard. This is little we can do to prepare effectively for it – there is no owner’s manual we can refer to or check. We’ve never been as old as we are right now. It’s not something we can prepare for through experience. Sure, we can observe others – neighbors, parents, grandparents, family members, teachers, members of the community, and others as we are much younger to see how they handle themselves and listen to their stories of what they are encountering and dealing with – to the extent they are honest and forthcoming about what they are experiencing.
There is no no textbook on aging written from the standpoint of personal insight as to what will happen to us and what we will experience – only histories, journals, and observations of what others have experienced as they have gone through life. We may or may not have the same reference point as them.
While we all get older, we age in different ways. We have a life experience that filters our response to life’s circumstances. What one person deals with – even a close relative such as a sibling or even a twin – may differ dramatically from another in terms of illnesses, personal accomplishments, talents, ambitions, career, and their outlook on life.
As we make that journey through life – and we don’t have any choice and we certainly can’t stop the ride and get off to rest, press the pause button, or turn around and go back – the hardest realty may be admitting to ourselves that we can’t do everything that we used to be able to do. They could be physical or mental activities. It could have to do with sports, hobbies, work around the house, repairing the car or things at home, or dozens of other things we used to pride ourselves on doing well or that others respected us for being able to do. It’s not that we have become terrible at anything. It’s just that we might not be as quick or as strong as we were a few years back. Then, there’s also new technology to contend with as in televisions, cell phones, computers, and automobile engines. It might also mean that we need to ask for assistance occasionally for something that we could have handled ourselves previously.
We might also need to come to terms with the clock in terms of our reflexes and response rate – that it could take a little longer to accomplish some tasks that used to be second-nature or done effortlessly or almost without giving it any thought.
We should accept that we can’t complete everything in one day. We can work for a while and then relax for a while. Most accidents happen when we are tired and are not paying close attention. We may wish that we still had the energy we had when you were 25, but we have wisdom and experience that we couldn’t even imagine back then. Besides, we are not 25 anymore. That’s life. Like the saying goes: make lemonade out of those lemons.
As for our general aging in place needs – without even focusing on specific mobility or accessibility needs that some of us have and may have had for years or even a lifetime – many adjustments need to be made in our homes to accommodate our changing sensory and mobility needs. Everything revolves around safety.
Safety is a term that many of us used to give lip service to – we knew we didn’t want to get hurt, but we wouldn’t go out of our way to remain safe or prevent an injury either. Now, we understand that we are more vulnerable. We appreciate our mortality. Instead of doing something adventuresome just because it seemed like a good idea at the time, we are more inclined to evaluate whether there is any risk to us and then proceed more cautiously.
We understand that our reaction time may be a tad slower than it was at our prime or possibly even a couple of short years ago, that our senses may be a little duller or less responsive for us than we would like to see or admit, and that our physical abilities and strength may have diminished a little over time. This doesn’t mean we are ready to sit on the sidelines for the duration, but it does mean that we are aware of some limitations that have cropped up in how we handle certain events we encounter. Some people may be in denial about these changes, but the rest of us are aware of them. how we handle them to remain safe and productive are the real questions and challenges for us.
We are aging and therefore aging in place in the homes we have and enjoy. Still, we have a lot of living to do!